How to make Kimbap

Or, you see me rolling…

Assorted pieces of kimbap (or gimbap)

Assorted pieces of kimbap (or gimbap)

I should start by saying I really had no idea what I was doing when I decided to try and make kimbap. We didn’t get  around to making it while my mom was here, so I just winged it and although my results were tasty, the rolls themselves weren’t going to win any beauty contests. I did get better at it as I made more rolls, but I wish I would have taken the time to look up a good tutorial video like this one before I started!

Kimbap is the Korean adaptation of Japanese futomaki style sushi. The biggest difference is in Korean Kimbap (also spelled gimbap, the pronunciation is somewhere between the two) the rice is seasoned with sesame oil instead of rice vinegar and sugar. Kim is the Korean word for nori (the seaweed sheets) and bap is rice. In Korea, kimbap is a very casual food and very popular for picnics or casual entertaining.

To be honest, I have no idea how to write this recipe, since the quantities and ingredients will depend on how many you are serving and your own preferences. Plan on one roll per person; each roll requires one sheet of nori and about a cup of cooked rice.



Hot cooked short grain rice, about 1 cup per serving. Look for a rice labled for sushi or calrose. Nishiki and Botan are two brands I often see at regular supermarkets. Brown rice would be delicious, just make sure that it’s short grained.

Nori sheets, enough to make as many rolls as you’d like to serve.

Sesame Oil

Plus some of these:

Cooked bulgogi – this is a perfect use for leftovers! Here is my mom’s recipe for bulgogi.

Strips of cooked Spamit might sound strange but I can tell you it’s delicious. Spam is very popular in Korea! I pan fry thin slices of spam until brown and crispy (I even like it slightly burnt) and then slice into thin strips.

Fish cakes

Surimi (or fake crab)

Canned chunk tuna

Strips of omelet

Any other meat or protein that appeals to you

Matchstick sliced carrots and cucumbers

Pickled daikon (long radish)

Spinach, blanched and squeezed dry, seasoned with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce. I used about 9 ounces of fresh spinach to make enough for about 4 rolls.

Toasted Sesame seeds

The Process

Cook the rice according to package directions, enough to make one cup for every roll you want to make. When the rice is ready, put it in a large bowl and season with about half a tablespoon of sesame oil per cup. You can use a rice paddle or bowl scraper to fold the oil into the rice – you want it to have a light taste and fragrance of sesame oil, but not so much that it is a greasy mess.


Cover the rice to keep it warm, and place one sheet of nori on a sushi rolling mat. If you don’t have one, you could use plastic wrap, like Saran wrap, but I think a bamboo mat is easier. Put about a cup of rice on the nori and spread it evenly over the bottom 2/3 of the sheet. I did it wrong in the picture, but it still worked out okay. Please consult either the video linked above or this photo tutorial to learn the right way. It will take some practice, but even the ugly ones are delicious.


Place your desired fillings in rows about an inch up from the bottom of the rice, like so and roll! You’ll use the mat to help you roll and tuck, you want to tighten as you go along, but not so tight you rip the nori.

In this roll, we have takuan (pickled daikon), cucumber, spinach, bulgogi and carrots.


Once it’s formed into a delicious rice log, use a very sharp knife to slice into rounds.


And enjoy! My mom said these looked good but were too loose, and I have to agree, some fell apart when I moved them.  I did get better as I rolled more and they tasted great. Kimbap isn’t usually served with any sort of sauce, like wasabi or soy sauce. I think it tastes best at room temperature, but cold out of the fridge is good, too.

Kimbap doesn’t keep well, about 24 hours is the limit and that’s pushing it. The concern isn’t food safety, but the rice does get hard and unappealing, even if well wrapped. In my next post, I’ll share an easy recipe for any leftover kimbap you might have.


Spam, omelet, spinach and carrots. I also made one with tuna, avocado and sriracha mayonnaise that was tasty, but very sloppy.



Leave a Reply